Agency numbers and sense

Schematic’s rising CFO Holland discusses being acquired and digital in the bad economy


Q: What is your role at Schematic and what are you responsible for?

A: I came into Schematic about March 2006, at a time that the company was just transforming from a small to a mid-sized company. At that time, they were adding departments like finance and HR, which they hadn’t had before. So my role has been around creating a reporting infrastructure and putting standard policies in order. Since I’ve joined I’ve cleaned up the books and worked on building the finance, HR and facilities infrastructure. In 2007, Schematic was acquired by WPP so it helped to have all of that in place.

Q: How have things evolved since the acquisition?

A: In a smaller company, the main demand is always cash flow and influenced our decision making process. But now we are part of a large multi national company, so we no longer are worried about cash flow, but we now have to worry about more rigorous reporting, software compliance issues and more deadlines, all of the things that come with being a part of a public company.

The finance team spends so much time on reporting and but we still have to make time for strategy. There is always that back and forth. The challenge is that we are still a growing company, and through our growth, we are still implementing our own internal management and infrastructure.

Q: Has client billing changed through the evolution?

A: Yes. In the past, the majority of the work was project driven. So for example, we’d charge a fee based on the project, so we get paid $600,000 to build out a certain objective. But in the last couple of years, I’ve seen that switch towards a more time and materials type of billing in which we are billing per service. That was great for us.

Q: How do you work with account managers and production teams?

A: I work really closely with account managers. I am looking at their budgets on a least a monthly basis, if not weekly, and am hand in hand through the entire sales lifecycle. I also work closely with the project teams to make sure that the data that I’m getting is accurate.

Q: How have things changed since the economy has taken a turn for the worse?

A: We haven’t seen a complete slowdown. We’ve seen projects delay, but not completely stop. We’ve also seen more clients more focused on the strategic results of a campaign, but broadly, we haven’t felt it much. We are still growing, but maybe just at a slower pace. We also are seeing a little shift of market spending hitting digital, even if overall, which is advantageous to us.

Q: What does the weak economy mean to your staff?

A: Often companies overlook the impact of the economy on their employees.  While the bottom line is important, it’s equally important to treat your staff well.  It’s all about great people doing great work.  At the end of the day, it is the great work that our clients value.

Q: How have sales been since the acquisition?

I can’t share numbers, but we’ve nearly doubled in size from the prior year, which is tremendous to be a part of a company that has such a strong delivery.

Q: What are your predictions for next year?

A: We are being cautious with our growth for next year, because we really don’t know what to expect from the economy. I worked in the music industry for a while, and while I was there, I watched it decline. And while I was in TV, I saw it spike before it began to decline. It is such a different viewpoint, being a part of a growing industry. It is really exciting.I also expect to see longer and more complex relationships with clients, which allows us to add a more strategic role for them. For clients that we have existing relationships with, they tend to come to us earlier now, before they have the idea. And when we come in much earlier in the process, we end up doing much better work. And it’s broadening our company. I think we’ll see more of that in 2009.

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